Audio-Technica’s New Headphones Are A Listening Instrument

The ATH-AWKTs sound as good as they look.

By Robert Ross 27/03/2020

Audio-Technica is a familiar name to audiophiles who cut their teeth in the vinyl era. Established in Tokyo by Hideo Matsushita in 1962, the small firm became recognized for its superb phonograph cartridges, which it continues to manufacture. Cables and microphones followed—then headphones, for which the brand is best known today.

In Japanese artisanal tradition, Audio-Technica’s latest ATH-AWKT headphones immediately catch the eye with housings fashioned from the country’s rare and beautiful ebony called Kokutan. Used to make woodwind instruments and pianos, the black-and-brown-striped hardwood has a density that suppresses resonances that would otherwise compromise the sound. To optimize the appearance of the $3,100 component, the hand-applied semi-gloss finish of the wood will deepen with age, enhancing the grain over time.

Inside the housings are custom 53mm drivers that reproduce the full frequency spectrum with exceptional accuracy. The diaphragm of each transducer—equivalent to the cone of a loudspeaker—is wired with 99.99 per cent oxygen-free copper, carrying the purest audio signal to each driver with the least possible distortion.

Ideal for personal listening, the sealed-back design of the phones does not allow sound to escape into the external environment, while Audio-Technica’s exclusive D.A.D.S. (Double Air Damping System) divides the interior of the housing into two separate acoustic chambers, preserving bass definition and weight. And to accommodate long listening sessions, the earpads and headband are covered in ultra-soft sheep’s leather.

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